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It’s difficult for me to write this post; doing so means spilling my guts more than usual. The term “info-dump” is often used to describe when someone on the spectrum speaks near endlessly about their favourite topic(s), what I am about to do could be considered closer to an “emotion dump”, more than anything. I’m one of those proud, foolish folk who wear their hearts proudly on their sleeves, so this is nothing new to me, but this time, I feel a deep sense of personal loss and sadness towards sharing this, but I’m hoping it will help me lick my wounds and learn to move onto the next step.
Today my grades were posted, and I learned that I didn’t make the final grade necessary to continue onto the next level of Japanese. The course required a B+, I got a C+. Honestly, in my heart I was expecting this, and even though it was a swift kick in the gut, I went to the UVic website and dropped the next level quickly, and I’m now trying my best to think ahead rather than stew in my failure.
I could blame this on the semester being difficult, starting over at a new school, moving twice, dealing with personal and financial hardships, on the professor’s teaching methods, or on the work load of my other courses, but at the end of the day, the fault lies with me not trying hard enough. I remember reading once, in a children’s book the bit of encouragement, “You did your best, and your best is good enough,” but this time, my best wasn’t good enough. I was inattentive, I didn’t study enough, and I didn’t make a hard enough effort to keep up with the material, even though it was challenging. I could have gone to the language labs, could have sought out more Japanese friends, and watched Japanese movies on the weekend.
A personal revelation that had been growing in the back of my mind for about two years hit me right after I absorbed the C+ and what it meant: I am not meant to be doing this. This isn’t my first disappointment, Japanese-language wise. It’s a very challenging language, and I always found it much more challenging and frustrating compared to other ones I studied, such as Russian. But I kept at it because I loved Japanese literature, and dreamed about studying figures from Japanese literature, such as Akiko Yosano, the famed Meiji/Taisho era poet who wrote for one of Japan’s most famous feminist publications, Seito (Bluestocking) and challenged convention to its core with her frank and sensual poetry.
I believed that if I kept trying, that if I just grit my teeth and plowed through learning the difficult language, I could unearth the key to one day reading these authors in Japanese, absorbing their words, their talent and passion into my being. For the last four years, I followed a basic pattern of scraping by in the Japanese language courses, getting mediocre grades, while flourishing in courses on literature, history, politics, and various other topics, coming home with Japanese language tests bathed in red ink over my sloppy kanji and lack of elegant, flowing sentences, while my papers on other subjects received endless praise, kind words, and offers into honours programs.
It was exhausting and emotionally trying, but I wanted to join the circle of academics that I admired so greatly when work-studying in the languages department. Their world was going to be my world, I thought. Then my advisor gently told me that my language skills weren’t up for academia, to consider other fields, so I threw myself instead into a future of activism and law, believing that I could find satisfaction there. It was another path to the same source of happiness. But self-doubt has been eating away at me for some time now, looking over this depressing pattern of Japanese dragging down my GPA and the emotional and intellectual turmoil draining me of happiness.
I’m home in Hawaii now. While I am here, I am going to think long and hard about what it is I want out of life, and consider my options. I have a feeling that when I sit down and think carefully about what my future holds for me, Japanese will not be playing a part in it. I know what makes me happy, what makes my heart and mind thrive, and it doesn’t include labouring over kanji and belittling myself for not being able to master it.
What I know about my future is that I want it to involve a job that I excel at and love with all of my heart, which is challenging but doesn’t leave me feeling like I’ve been through Mrs. Lovett’s meat grinder. I want it to be in a field where I can be proud of the work I do, and where I have the chance to share any gifts I have with others, and can grow each day from doing what I do. Four years in undergrad have taught me what my natural skills are, I’m good at writing when the subject is close to my heart, I can store vast amounts of information in my head and hold it there for future use, I’m quite talented at storytelling, and my love for reading has always been my first, and it will never diminish.
I don’t know yet what it will take for me to figure out what it is I want to do, but I feel strangely liberated, having such a wide sky of possibility before me. There’s a great amount of heartbreak akin to the one I feel now waiting out there, I’m sure, but maybe there’s also the chance to find whatever it is that will give me that sense of adventure and satisfaction which I’ve pushed under layers of kanji practice sheets.